By Way of Introduction

By Way of Introduction

“An insurmountable divide…”

I find writing the customary “about” page to a new blog or website to be a troublesome, if not daunting, task. There are times when a simple paragraph telling the reader what your blog is about will suffice. In other cases, the question arises whether or not a paragraph will be enough to describe the site. In other words, my vision for the site.

First and foremost, I want this blog to serve as a fan guide and resource for all things related to Ai No Kusabi. So, I needed to craft the introductory post to be likened to an opening section of a book. From the outset, my goal for this blog is to be an unofficial online guide to Ai No Kusabi- built by a fan for other fans.

How Ai No Kusabi Otaku came to be

So, how did I come up with the idea for this blog?
Back when I was going through the site’s early planning stages and kicking around ideas for a blog—the initial iteration of it— was to create an online collection archival site. At that time about few years or so ago, Ai No Kusabi Otaku was essentially going to be a small page on my anime and manga review blog, Kitsune Yaoi Otaku/Yaoi Obsession. As these things usually end up happening, my Ai No Kusabi media “collection” and my ideas for the page grew suddenly out of control; as they (collections and ideas) tend to do at times. It was at that moment I knew that all my plans and ideas for the page would be better suited on its own domain/site where it would have a chance to expand without the concern of whether or not other things on Kitsune Yaoi Otaku would be crowded out. So, I scrapped the section page on that site and began working in earnest on the new site that would be solely dedicated to Ai No Kusabi. Thus, Ai No Kusabi Otaku was born. Well, deciding and obtaining the domain or online home for the site was the easy part. The hard part was…..everything else.

The sticky situation of trying to stand out in a seemingly crowded realm

To be honest, I had a bunch of rough starts early on. The muse is a fickle mistress as all creatives know. But one learns perseverance despite whatever set-backs arise. However, you don’t need to know those; staying positive, you see (grin).
Moving on….

Around the fall season of 2014, the domain for the blog had been bought, and I continued growing and organizing my personal Ai No Kusabi media collection. At the same time, I was also planning what content I would host on my new site. Decisions needed to be made and a content focus needed to begin. Everything seemed to be coming together and yet, a cloud of panic settled over me and never quite left. It was during that same year, I found two older Ai no Kusabi fan sites; both had similar coverage, differing site layout and differing approaches to presenting the material. At that point, worms of self-doubt churned around inside my guts. Upon seeing what they had done, I experienced the most annoying thing to happen to a content creator—I began puzzling over a single nagging question: how could I possibly top what was already done? Then I realized that I didn’t have to top anyone’s work, rather I could expand upon it by incorporating all the newer media items I collected and then build upon that by providing my own unique voice. It didn’t seem so complicated after that. So, in effect, after taking those sites and mine into account, there really is a place for all to coexist within an ever-expanding fandom. At the time I’m writing this, it looks like the fandom for this unique yaoi novel series is seeing a welcomed resurgence. As an ‘older’ fan seeing/hearing new fans discovering Ai No Kusabi and hearing their reactions to it similar to how I reacted to it my first time, is a wonderful feeling. More on that later.

“You only have two hands to hold onto the most important things in life.” Try saying that to a consummate pack rat

While I was trying to see where my little blog baby was going to fit inside the current fan blogosphere, I still needed a content plan. There were some obvious things that needed inclusion but I needed some other things that would help set my site apart from the others. I have some definite content plans in the works, as well as a few others that need tweaking and fleshing out before they can be presented. Still, deciding what I can do safely and legally- in essence, what I could get away with- started to be the deciding factor into which projects would be a go or not. As of this writing, the content development plans are still in their initial stages with projects that are completed will be the first ones to be released to the blog. There are a few projects that were decided were to be on-going features (these are secrets, of course). I can’t announce what those are right now but as soon as they are ready, the site will be updated accordingly. Planning content for a blog on any topic is a multiple step process and I’d love to tell you everything I have in store. I want to give readers something to look forward to, after all. That being said, I also don’t wish to “show my entire hand” this early on. You’ll just have to trust me and keep watching here. What I want first and foremost is to create a great site; one that I hope will expand with the help of your feedback.

From an analysis standpoint, I wanted to treat Ai No Kusabi like any other work of literature. I’ve written detailed chapter synopsis and commentaries for each volume of the English series that will be posted. I still need to work out what would be the most interesting way to present that material for readers. At the time of this writing I would have completed my fifth straight read-through of the novel. I found that the story hasn’t lost its impact and is just as strong at this latest reading as it was from the first. I can honestly say that Ai No Kusabis quite easily one of the most emotional stories I’ve read in some time. There’s a lot to the novel that goes beyond its central plot. So, there’s a lot that I can write about. It’s a romance, yes, but the various themes and issues the narrative presents makes for great opportunities for commentary and discussion. Yoshihara created a dystopian society that is in turns both frightening and fascinating. Its complexity prompts readers to ask many questions and that its ambiguity leaves much to the reader’s own interpretation. Interwoven within this dismal milieu is a complex, intensely psychosexual and ultimately romantic love story: of secret passions and dark obsessions; a love that is both timely and timeless and one that transforms the lives of its main heroes, even ultimately the world around them forever.

Ai No Kusabi Forever!

The fan base for this single story continues to amaze me and every day its audience grows. Between the fiction stories and art work created by fans of Ai No Kusabi from all over the world over the years—the sheer volume of the material produced staggers the imagination and clearly demonstrates the love fans have shown for this single story. As Ai No Kusabi continues to be discovered by slews of new fans through word of mouth into the present—expanding the fandom even more—there will be more tributes created and many more interesting discussions. I’ll have my work cut out for me as the self-proclaimed archivist for this material.

It was my desire from the outset, to set up this archival site, in a museum-like style and adding to it over time. I wanted my blog to serve as a living testimony of how passionate our fan love for Ai No Kusabi has grown and continues to grow over time. There is no doubt in my mind that the novel series and anime (both adaptations) will attract new fans and be revisited again by both new and old fans for many years to come.

Credit for the lion’s share of the material I’ve curated over the last several months or so, and served as the inspiration for putting together a website of my own, goes to a fellow fan’s awesome site: I’ll be linking to this site heavily and giving kudos to the authoress and its contributors where they are due. I hope there will be those who would want to contribute their own work to my site as well. In that way it will not only be my site but others can feel like a part of it’s creation as well. After all, this site wouldn’t have happened at all if it hadn’t been for all of you.

Of course we do shipping! That’s all we do around here!

I do have fan fiction/art sections planned for the site where I’ll be featuring the work of a fujoshi whose AnK stories are so beautifully imagined and written that you would have thought she was mind-melding with the original author, Rieko Yoshihara herself. I’m still trying to decide how best to showcase her work but I plan to. Also, I hope to feature other fan works too, including my own—maybe. (*wink*)

In our own ways, through discussion of the novels and anime adaptations, art work and stories we have grown the world of Amoy and its denizens perhaps far beyond what Rieko Yoshihara-sensei may have envisioned over 33 years ago when this novel first saw print! [33 years? Really? Has it been that long?]

In a very real sense, my main purpose for creating this blog was to pay humble tribute to, in my opinion, one of the greatest yaoi love stories of the 20th Century. I consider my blog to be not only a tribute to Ai No Kusabi but also a gift to all its fans: past, present and future.

In Loving Dedication

 To Kaneto Shiozawa (Iason’s Seiyu)

With loving gratitude from all your fans,

Thank you for breathing life and giving voice to Iason Mink and so many other wonderful anime characters.

From deep in our hearts we thank you and bless you

Domo arigato gozaimashita,

RIP Kaneto-san (1954-2000)

(Oh, yes, dear, I know. How could possibly forget…..)

I would be greatly faulted if I forgot to mention Toshihiko Seki-san for creating an adorable and memorable Riki. This is for Toshi-san too.

Special thanks must also be given to Rieko Yoshihara-Sensei for giving the world an amazing story that has not lost its power to charm and excite its readers/viewers/listeners (whatever the case may be)

Domo arigato gozaimashita (if my spelling is off, I humbly apologize; I hope I came close)

Ai No Kusabi Forever!

FAQ: As a newbie to Ai No Kusabi should one read the novel first or watch the anime

Thus begins our first post series of sorts which is giving my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Ai No Kusabi, both the novel and the anime.
And one of the ones I see the most often around the Great Interweb is this:

“I just found Ai No Kusabi and I know that there is a novel and anime adaptation, but I don’t know what to do first: should I read the novel before seeing the anime or should I watch the anime first?”

This question leaves me sort of stumped, to be honest because I’m not sure how to answer it. But, I’ll attempt to answer it by relating to my experience.

I discovered Ai No Kusabi in pretty much the same way as this person had: I noticed other fans talking about it on a forum or even found it on the Web through a random search and wanted to find out more. I watched the anime first…and this was before I found out that they did a remake of it. I watched both parts of the original anime on YouTube and immediately loved it. I found out that it was a novel sometime after that when I went looking to see if I could find any more information about it. I naturally had already read the fan translation of the first few chapters of the novel. I eventually ordered the English translations and read all 8 in about a week, week in a half. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For the most part, whichever form of media you choose I think it’s pretty much relative. However, I do wish to make one small suggestion and that is: prior to reading any fan-fiction, and there are literally tons of it out there, make sure you read the novel before reading any of those. Nine times out of ten, FF deals with AU or alternative universes and fan authors change things to the point that new fans coming into a series may confuse what is “fanon” (what the fan perceives is true from the source material) from actual canon (the original author’s take on the world he/she created in the novel/series). Many times the lines between the two get so far out of tune it gets difficult to tell the difference. Case in point, the Taming Riki series which was a fan fiction story that became legendary within the AnK fan base, not only because the author tried to sell her stories (a completely separate issue I won’t get into here), but many new fans believed that she was the original author of Ai No Kusabi. Oops! That turned out to NOT be the case. The authors of Taming Riki and Ai No Kusabi are completely different and the former are a series of stories based on the latter.  Fan Fiction forms a bit of a grey area in terms of copyright any way–but that’s another story. Anyway, be careful, and know what you’re reading ahead of time. I think also it’s more fun to read fan fiction once you know the original story going in. That way you know what things are being changed around if any and also you can put the story into proper context. It’s not important in some ways. Most times I like to read a good story and so I’ll come into a piece of fan fiction as if I’m opening a new book. If it’s well written then I love to read another writer’s take on a world I’ve come to know and love.

Which anime OVA adaptation should I watch?
Oh, yeah! I forgot about that…. you should know too that they did a remake in 2012 of the anime OVAs—same production company and director and character designer of the 1994 OVA, except with a different voice cast (same used for the audio drama CD remakes) and Yoshihara-sensei wrote the screenplays for all four parts. This remake was supposed to be a 13-part series, but AIC had financial difficulties and only did the four episodes. The remake only covers a portion of the novel series, but it has a narrative structure very close to the novel. Whereas the original OVAs (1992 and 1994) present the novel’s events in more chronological order and it’s the whole story with certain scenes altered or changed around. The main plot points remain the same. So if you happen to be new, the original OVAs are a nice overview of the story. It’s not the whole story, and in the original OVAs the 3-year span that Riki is in Eos as Iason’s pet is only hinted at via flashback, but it’s still nice to watch this classic. I once put both versions of the anime OVAs together to see how they would look and work and it ended up being close to three hours. Whether I’ll be posting here, I haven’t decided.
To wrap up, in what method you come into Ai No Kusabi, either with the novel series or the anime, I’m not really sure it matters. I was given a taste of the story through the anime OVAs and it was through those that I wanted to hunt down the novel series. After that, I wanted to read more and see how others interpreted Yoshihara’s world and started reading fan fiction stories and collecting fan art. Yoshihara’s world is complex and much is left to interpretation (as I’ll discuss later) and one take is as good as any other’s. Whichever it is you do, though…. find your path and ‘walk forward into the world’. Just enjoy whatever it is you find and share your discovery with others!

So long for now!

Share with me in the comments how you discovered Ai No Kusabi. I’d be very curious to discovery what path you followed in your journey to Amoy.